One of the biggest perks to being a journalist and writer in the cannabis industry is that I frequently get the opportunity to try new products — many before they hit the market. With a niche in cannabis technology, I often get the chance to use and evaluate new tech gadgets, like the tCheck, Gpen Connect, and even the new DAVINCI vaporizer.
As an experienced cannabis consumer living in a legal state, I also have sampled a broad range of products available in Colorado — mostly out of curiosity. I will seek out products with interesting new features, such as nanoformulations.
The Many Faces of THC
Through my career and involvement in the cannabis industry, I have had the opportunity to learn that not all forms of THC are created equal. So, let’s explore the variations and what consumers can expect from each of them.
Various Forms of THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most widely known and infamous cannabinoid because it is the compound in cannabis, creating the euphoria cannabis consumers love. However, what many don’t realize is that there are many forms of this exciting compound.
We can look at this cannabinoid as the raw, natural form of tetrahydrocannabinol. This cannabinoid is the acidic version of the compound and is found in the raw plant material. THCa, in this form, is non-psychoactive. Many hemp and cannabis advocates swear by consuming raw cannabis leaves or even juicing them, as THCa is purported to carry a wide range of health and wellness benefits.
This is the form of THC most everyone is familiar with because when you put flame to dry cannabis, the heat converts most of the THCa to Delta-9-THC. This conversion is referred to as ‘decarboxylation.’ Most home cannabis bakers use this process to increase their butter and oil potency by heating cannabis before they extract it. Most legal cannabis producers use Delta-9-THC to make various products like edibles and beverages.
Delta-9-THC binds with the CB1 receptors in our brains to create the iconic effects of cannabis. THC works very similar to anandamide, an endocannabinoid produced by the human body, that scientists call “The Bliss Molecule.”
This form of THC does not exist in the plant itself. Instead, when someone eats Delta-9-THC, enzymes produced by the liver metabolize the compound. This process changes Delta-9-THC to its more potent metabolite, 11-Hydroxy-THC.
Because it takes digestion, this causes a delayed effect from edible products, but this form of THC packs a punch when it does kick in. Often, this gets consumers in trouble. A THC overdose won’t kill you, but it can be terribly uncomfortable for the duration.
*Note: When you’ve overconsumed a THC edible — do NOT eat fatty, greasy foods. THC is a lipid, so it binds with the fat calories in your digestive system. Therefore, the more fat calories in your system, the more THC you will metabolize.
The THC Newcomers in the Cannabis and Hemp Industry
Update: My retraction of support for Delta 8 THC began in January of 2020, when I was hired to interview Josh Swider from Infinite CAL Labs and learned the devastating truth about these synthesized cannabinoids. The more I dug into the subject, the more I didn’t like what I was learning. Find out more about what I learned and why I feel betrayed by Delta-8 products.
This form of THC is a newcomer to the legal market and the dark horse of the hemp industry. Delta-8-THC is psychoactive, but the effect is much lighter than Delta-9-THC and creates less paranoia than its more infamous predecessor. Naturally, as with all cannabinoids, more research is necessary to determine the medical potential for the cannabinoid, but preliminary studies are promising.
For the record, I am not opposed to the cannabinoid itself – I am opposed to the way it’s created and misrepresented.
Delta-8-THC in the legal hemp industry presents an interesting conundrum. As the hemp legislation is written, all cannabinoids derived from hemp are legal. However, in hemp, Delta-8-THC is produced in tiny amounts. Therefore, many producers use a synthesis process to convert CBD to Delta-8-THC to produce enough of the cannabinoid for commercial purposes. And the DEA is beginning to question the legality of this process.
Another cannabinoid that is not present in the plant itself and requires laboratory processes to create, THC-O-Acetate, is still relatively difficult to find in the legal market. Last year, Honest Marijuana, a legal cannabis company here in Colorado, let me try their new products: a THC-O vape pen, pain cream, and infused honey.
Unlike Delta-8, THC-O is not produced naturally — it is a cannabinoid made from THC, using chemicals to alter the cannabinoid. THC-O is said to be about 3x as potent as THC and is supposed to create a more psychedelic, spiritual effect.
My experience wasn’t extraordinary with THC-O, but you can read all about it here. Long story short, THC-O felt more like a rave drug than a natural compound.
THC is Not the Big Bad Wolf
While THC has received a bad reputation based on outdated stereotypes and myths, THC can be consumed with responsibility. As science continues to uncover the mysteries in the various compounds in cannabis, expect to see more in terms of THC’s medicinal uses in all its forms.
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